Shop Simi Valley Campaign Working?

Two years ago, I was critical of the annual budget of $100,000 allocated to the Shop Simi Valley First campaign. To me, it seemed like an extreme amount of money on a campaign whose results are near impossible to measure. For example, is a spike in local shopping and tax revenue a result of a successful Shop Simi Valley First campaign or the outcome of a restoring economy/tax refund season/Holiday shopping season? How can you really know for sure?

A recent study discussed in the Ventura County Star indicates that I might be wrong in assuming the campaign’s success was not measurable. According to this study, the campaign is working, or at least it has been for the past three years. The specifics of the study are important. Let’s take a closer look at the facts first by concentrating on this portion of the VCSTAR article:

The marketing campaign was launched in 2004 to increase shopping in Simi Valley. About 25 percent of the city’s general fund comes from sales taxes.

The study results were based on interviews conducted in May with 300 Simi Valley residents 18 or older.

Research company owner Bill Davis told the committee the study found that since 2007, the last time a study was conducted on the campaign, public awareness of the Shop Simi First slogan has grown from 46 percent to 72 percent.

Obviously, 300 Simi Valley residents is a far cry from the real population, but I still believe the study is credible. It’s likely that the 300 residents represented multiple age groups, occupations and income brackets for a fair representation of the city’s population. There are more scientific ways to represent a fair average of a larger population, but we can assume the focus group was diverse.

The results include:

* In 2007, 34 percent of respondents said the slogan had affected their willingness to shop locally. This year, that number jumped to 44 percent.

* In 2007, 42 percent of respondents said they did not purchase outside Simi Valley. This year, that number grew to 47 percent.

* But the number of respondents who said they made purchases outside Simi Valley, 51 percent, stayed the same.

Looks good, right? Naturally, the next question is how did this increase in awareness of the program effect the city’s bottom line? Like before, I want to know if that a measurable metric or if it’s always going to be something that remains an unknown. Considering human nature, we can all be aware of what’s best for our local economy, but we’re ultimately going to make a decision that works best for us as individuals. This has to do with product availability, product selection and pricing. If selection is greater in another city and prices are cheaper in another city, that’s where the shoppers are going to go. Is Simi Valley a bedroom community like it’s been referred to for years, or is it changing into a shopping destination? Of those two, what do we want it to be?

I’m a believer in shopping locally. If you check the top right corner of this website, you’ll always see the Shop Simi Valley First logo prominently displayed. But until we know for sure how well this is working for our city, I would still prefer to limit the budget on this campaign and see the Chamber of Commerce step in as the primary owner of this effort.

20 thoughts on “Shop Simi Valley Campaign Working?

  1. Hi Mike- By day I’m a marketing consultant, using primary survey research to help some of the world’s most iconic brands improve their marketing effectiveness.

    Most likely, the survey was conducted by telephone using random digit dialing of landlines. A focus group is typically a small gathering of folks at a central facility. Focus groups are rarely projectable to a population. They are also fairly expensive to conduct.

    Back to the telephone survey approach, they probably established quotas to represent the characteristics of the population of Simi Valley. This is a widely used approach for collecting primary research data.

    Now, on to the results. Of the figures mentioned, awareness and impact of the slogan have risen by a statistically significant margin. This suggests that efforts to promote the program have worked. Critics might complain that awareness isn’t 100%. That 3 out of 4 residents are aware of the program is quite an accomplishment given a modest $100K annual budget. Worth noting, the %age of residents that said they did not purchase outside Simi Valley rose from 42 to 47 percent. That increase is not statistically significant; it is effectively unchanged.

    Your question about the program impacting the city’s bottom line is the $50K question. It can’t be answered with the data mentioned above. The stream of sales tax dollars back into our community is affected by a variety of different factors, including formulas determined by and frequently changed by Sacramento.

    What I would like to see is a metric that gets at the AMOUNT residents spend inside and outside of Simi Valley and whether it has increased or decreased over time. If the amount spent locally increases, while the awareness and impact metrics also increase, one can conclude that the program is working.

    I’d love to get my hands on that data. Maybe I’ll give Brian Gabler a call and see if he wouldn’t mind sharing it. I’ll keep you posted.

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  2. Hi Alan,

    That’s really great insight, thanks so much. So the random dialing approach, they’d have to ask some prelim questions about everyone’s demographics, correct?

    I agree, the actual amount spent in Simi Valley by Simi Valley residents is the ultimate data. It’s difficult to measure without a great deal of effort by Simi Valley merchants. A willingness to ask customers for their zip code along with a willingness to share that with the city seems to be the only way I can imagine.

    Thanks Alan! I hope you’re able to find something out from Brian Gabler!

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  3. Mike,

    You should ask that all of the survey data be posted online including question order. I like the concept but remain unconvinced the amount spent has been recaptured in added taxes.

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  4. As most of you are aware, I did not support the expenditure of $100,000 for this “Shop Simi Valley” campaign, however I did support the program in theory. I don’t have a problem admitting when I am wrong, and this may be one of those times.

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  5. You might be right Barbra. I was originally critical of the expense because few people outside the business community were aware of the program. If its success is measured by residents’ recognition, then it does represent an improvement. But can the program’s impact on the city’s bottom line ever be effectively measured? Probably not. And that still makes you want to question if you’re getting your money’s worth.

    Are we spending money to spread the word about the importance of shopping locally, or are we spending money to ensure that more people really do shop locally?

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  6. The only way “Shop Simi Valley First” can break even for the City every year is with $10 million spent in Simi Valley with a conscious effort by residents that would have otherwise spent their money outside the City. The one percent of money spent in Simi that would have been spent in Simi anyway doesn’t contribute to the $100,000 campaign price tag.

    The concept is great, but the reality is you don’t need $100,000 a year in tax dollars to accomplish what’s been done. If we don’t cut the campaign, a solution might be to reduce its funding as awareness increases. Ten million dollars in additional business each year just doesn’t make sense financially.

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  7. Barbra,

    If the program has brought in more money than is being spent by the city why not double the budget? I’d like to see the math that explains how it is cost effective. I would include an estimate of the additional spending in the city and the amount the city gets.

    If I buy a twenty dollar DVD at Bestbuy how much does the city get?

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  8. Brian asks,
    “If I buy a twenty dollar DVD at Bestbuy how much does the city get?”

    Simi Valley only gets 20 cents on a 20 dollar purchase. It’s only one percent. In many cases, you’re better off saving money by purchasing online and giving the extra savings straight to the City.

    We’re basically just subsidizing our local businesses with a tax paid marketing campaign. While a few businesses may benefit, the City itself is still at a loss.

    I say a loss because mathematically, it’s highly unlikely residents purchase $10 million or more that would have only otherwise been purchased elsewhere. This is a conscious effort of, “I was going to purchase in another city, but I’m going to purchase here instead.”

    Let’s say the campaign actually worked to benefit Simi Valley. Once it works, hasn’t it done its job? What would be the point of continuing to spend $100,000 yearly? Once the campaign reaches a sustainable goal and affected the minds of its citizens, all that’s left is maintenance of the website and stickers for additional businesses that want them (and maybe 1 or 2 other small expenses). At some point, you’re just wasting money by reaching out to residents who are already aware of the program.

    If you ask me, Shop Simi Valley First seems more like a PR campaign for our political incumbents to reach out to business owners who use it and citizens unaware of the true cost.

    Sure, $100,000 isn’t much compared to the annual budget in total, but that’s just not enough of an excuse to spend it.

    If it’s not much, I’d like to ask the City for ONLY $50,000 a year for myself to spend inside the City and help subsidize our businesses. I will even give you the receipts! Please? It would be an awesome campaign and more effective than SSVF. I would make headlines in the news as I traveled Simi to find great local businesses. SSVF is just too tame. This is just so crazy, it might actually work!

    We have $100,000 to spend on SSVF. I’m sure we could some of it to make it more exciting and appealing to net better results.

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  9. I’m not sure you’ll get your wish. Though I don’t have a figure, I have heard that funding of the program is going to increase in 2011. The remark was off the record and not specific on figures, so I’d only consider it a rumor at this point.

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  10. I commute to Los Angeles for work and I used to buy gas out there because it was 5-10 cents cheaper per gallon depending on where I went. About two years ago I stopped doing that when I realized that, even driving a hybrid, I was spending hundreds maybe even a thousand dollars annually outside the city that I could be spending here. I made the change after I heard a community economic report from the City’s Economic Development Director Brian Gabler. Just small things like buying gas can add up quickly. $350.00 may sound like a lot, but it’s only $7 a week.

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  11. Ted,
    You are spot on. There is no leadership from the City on Shop Simi. Look at the empty buildings around town. Mervyns just happens to be the biggest eyesore. The dirty little secret is how BAD the mall is doing. They are giving huge discounts on rent just to avoid looking like a ghost town. They couldn’t even sustain a food court. Many of the retailers won’t be able to hang on after the Holidays. T.O. Did it right with having some Major upscale retailer as anchors. Yes they had to invest in it, but the proof is in the results.

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  12. So let me get this straight. Sedell’s Soldiers and Ted are blaming the current City Council for business failure in our community? How stupid is that? You guys need to stop drinking the kool-aid it’s effecting your thought process.

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  13. Shadow,

    No, actually said this goes back over 20 years. Are there members on the current Council that have been around for some of the debacles? Yes.

    Sedell Sodier is missing my main point.

    Simi Valley had the possibility of having Nordstrom’s in our Town Center. People pointed this out to me and claim that if we would have attracted such a first-class tenant that would be all we need to have success at the Town Center.

    I’ve written many times before on this site and others that bringing shoppers into Simi Valley from other areas is a very very difficult process.

    A Nordstrom’s is not the answer to attracting outside shoppers or keeping people inside Simi Valley. Duplicating what is in the San Fernando Valley or Thousand Oaks will not bring shoppers to Simi Valley and it is obvious that it does not keep shoppers here either (in the case of Macy’s).

    Bringing a store/attraction that is not in the San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita area or Conejo Valley and even Oxnard is how you bring outside shoppers to Simi Valley.

    I have heard that there was a possibility of getting Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in our town Center. The next closest location for this mega-attraction and retailer is Rancho Cucamonga and Las Vegas. This type of retailer would justify adding lanes to the freeway to handle the traffic that would come to Simi Valley just for the experience of Outdoor World.

    Big Boy retailers know their value and require big dollars from either the developers or the city to come to town. I’m not sure of our city has the sophistication to put that kind of deal together. We have a few that understand, but a few at City hall is not enough.

    If you want a good example of a major malfunction by our current City Council then you have to look no further than the Los Alamos Canyon project which is now turned into the Waste Management Landfill Expansion. The City Council created and handed over the landfill expansion on a silver platter. They chased Unocal out of town and what did Unocal do but sell the property to Waste Management.

    They lacked the vision to understand they had control over the landfill expansion with the Unocal development. They lacked the vision that our businesses desperately needed those added residential units to help balance out the retail – to population ratios in this town.

    People get mad when I talk about this but it is what it is and we can’t get the toothpaste back in the tube. But now we have the opportunity to not open another tube of toothpaste.

    The bottom line is we do not have a population base large enough to support the total square footage of commercial retail that has been built out in this town. We compound this problem by not having the proper attraction to bring outside dollars into Simi Valley. We are also handicapped by not being on one of the major state arteries like Santa Clarita and Thousand Oaks.

    The solution to our problems are within and anyone who wants to roll up their sleeves and understand this can help move us forward.

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  14. Ted,
    Nordstrom’s wanted the city to pay them millions, and I do mean millions of dollars to locate here. We, the City Council felt that it would be irresponsible to pay that kind of money for a department store. As much as I would like to go one on one with you regarding the mall I can’t because it is a conflict of interest for me, and so I have no knowledge of who is trying to come to the Mall. I can tell you that the Council goes to the ICSC convention in LV every year trying to convince retailer to come here.
    I will go head to head with you regarding Unocal. The Unocal project was in major violation of the Hillside Performance Standard, which was voted on by the residents of Simi Valley, you know that as well as anyone being a Realtor. They wanted to move hundreds of thousands of dirt to fill in the valleys and then build homes on them. The only people supporting this project were the local realtors, who would benefit from the sale of the homes. Look at Moorpark. When a large developer wanted to build all those homes around Moorpark College, the residents had a fit. The same thing would have happened here in Simi Valley because the residents of this community want it to remain a “bedroom” community. I see it day after day. Look at Runkle Ranch. The residents were/are so up in arms about this development. Once we get clearance from all the regulatory agencies and the property gets a clean bill of health, the residents will still not support this project. People don’t come out in support of projects; they come out because they are opposed to them. They don’t care if they have to shop over the hill. They don’t want to fight traffic, smog or all the other problems that come with a larger population, which we need to support commercial growth.
    I would love to have a Bloomingdales, or a Lord and Taylors or Whole Foods or a Red Lobster but it just isn’t going to happen and to blame it on a lack of sophistication on the city leaders is nonsense. Geez, we can’t even support Applebee’s or IHOP.
    Again, you’re a Real Estate Agent. Housing is your bread and butter, so it’s kind of like the fox guarding the hen house. I’ve been on the planning commission and the City Council, and I know firsthand, residents don’t want more housing, but we both know that if we don’t have housing, we can’t get the big name businesses that Thousand Oaks (mainly because they are on a freeway that actually goes somewhere) is willing to pay for because eventually they will get it back in tax revenue.

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  15. Brian- The company that ran the survey was Davis Research of Calabasas. They are a market research company only. They are the closest market research firm to Simi Valley and have been around for decades. They are a very reputable firm.

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  16. Laura,

    I think you brought up some good points on the Hillside Performance Standards. I am not a tear down the hills kind of guy. I have some thoughts, but need to work on it tonight or tomorrow.

    Time to take a break now that the trolls on the other post are going after me instead of the topic. I think things need to cool off a little before continuing.

    I know on a typed forum this all comes out probably more adversarial than it should, but I have to give Barbra some props with her points whether I agree or disagree with her, she definitely has been around and can put some perspective on things from her side.

    Great discussion BTW 🙂

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  17. Ted,
    No apology needed. I didn’t take offense.
    Look, I answer to 122,000 residents of Simi Valley. The message is loud and clear. Most residents moved here to get away from urban sprawl. They just as soon have no building what’s so ever. You and I both know that can’t happen, so there has to be a “happy” medium, which is what the City council tries to do. That is why we are so diligent about having the developer work with the residents to come up with a project that is acceptable, which seems to work pretty well and sometimes the developer even gets a better project.
    Unocal tried to be everything to everybody. If you wanted a soccer field, fine, lets build one, if you wanted a fishpond, great idea, where would you like it? It was like a smopke screen to get their infill for all the houses they wanted to build. Just because Unocal went away doesn’t mean that Waste Management can’t present another housing project. One that is perhaps more palatable to the residents, because clearly, Unocal’s wasn’t. However, given the expansion of the landfill vs. a housing project, I truly believe they (residents) would take the expansion. Now I have no stats on that remark, it’s just a gut feeling having been on the Council for 18 years and three (3) on the planning commission prior.
    As far as ICSC is concerned, lets see, Men’s Warehouse, TGIF Fridays, Borders, several of the businesses at the mall site, and Elephant Bar just to name a few. Keep in mind that this also give the city the opportunity to let retailers know we are interested in them coming to Simi Valley. Residents are constantly requesting that we try to bring Arby’s, Old navy, Red Lobster to Simi Valley, so we have met with them as well, knowing full well that it takes several tried before we become successful, sometime we are, and sometimes not, but we continue to try.
    Where have residential projects been thrown under the bus? Aside from me voting no on the “smiley face” project (and even at that it passed) what project(s) are you referring to. You will need to be a little clearer on “fast tracking” a commercial piece of property. That may have happened some 25 + years ago for Costco or Wal-Mart, but I can’t remember it having been done for quite some time.
    I hope I have answered some of the questions, if not, lets try again. However, for the record, I will always listen to the resident of our community. If they want to see less housing then I believe it is my responsibility to do what I can to work within those perimeters.

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  18. Laura,
    Truly there are guidelines for development in this city. Some, not all developers, regardless if they are building homes or commercial development, try to cut corners and when they do, they cry foul. Now I am not saying the system is perfect, but I have had the opportunity to run interference for some developers and for the most part what has happened is they or their consultant/contractor have dropped the ball. Now please understand, I am not blaming this all on the person coming to the city trying to build something, I am however saying that WE the city council sees BOTH sides and it’s not all the cities fault. When a Council person is contacted because someone feels they are being treated unfairly, neither I nor any of my counterparts ignore request for help. If the city were to relax the rules we would soon look like the San Fernando Valley. If I sound defensive, well I guess I am. All one needs to do is look back 25 years. You would not recognize this place. We had some pretty bad planning in place, no guidelines for keeping people from parking their cars on the front lawns, no property maintenance, no setbacks for homes, no bike lanes, no landscape in the mediums, no landscape maintenance for businesses, no design guidelines just to name a few things. Your City Council is always looking for ways to improve service to the citizens of Simi Valley. Are we perfect? Not by a long shot. I am an Executive Director for a non-profit hospice foundation, Glen works for an electric company, Michelle at Simi Valley Hospital, Steve, owns his own business, and the Mayor, prior to the City Council was a civil servant. Our pay is less than minimum wage. Do we do this for the money? Silly question. Not only do we give up time with our family, but we have to disclose every piece of business we either own or are involved with, from owing/purchasing stock to purchasing a home…full disclosure. The laws aren’t difficult Laura, some people just don’t follow them and when they are caught, they cry foul. Some businesses go out of business because they are just plain lousy at it. Some stay for a long time. Good example is Green Acres Market. Pretty pricy BUT they have a product that people want to buy and they have great customer service. The City Council is always looking for ways to improve things. We continue listen to the residents on all issues, from HPS to tearing down Mountain Gate and putting up mixed use, to leaving Kadota Fig alone, to cleaning up Patricia Street, working with neighbors with barking dogs, to residents who want speed bumps to not feeding the crows, it’s all in a days work. Thanks for listening or in this case, reading.

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